Immigration Clinic Advises University Community
Thursday, Dec 15, 2016
By Traude Gomez Rhine
Profs Frenzen and Reisz assess possible impact of Trump presidency
Students who gathered in the USC El Centro Chicano office to discuss how the new presidency might affect their status as DACA, undocumented and immigrant students were repeatedly reminded that everyone living here has certain basic rights under the U.S. Constitution, including undocumented immigrants.
During the “What To Expect from the New Presidency,” information session on Dec. 5, Professor Niels Frenzen and Professor Jean Reisz of the USC Gould School of Law Immigration Clinic
stressed that DACA, undocumented, and immigrant students and allies need to know their rights and be strong in the face of adversarial forces that may want to deny them.
“Our job is to help you prepare,” said Frenzen, director of the Clinic who was recently named to the Provost’s Advisory Task Force on Immigration Issues, a newly commissioned task force of faculty, staff, and students to advise Provost Michael Quick on additional measures USC can take to support the university community in response to potential changes in immigration policy. The Immigration Clinic has also been tasked with providing campus training and leadership on DACA-specific issues as the new administration’s policies unfold.
The session began with Reisz outlining the potential impact of the Trump Presidency on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, holders, a program created by President Obama through executive action in 2012 for unauthorized immigrants who entered the U.S. as children before June of 2007.
The first option is that Trump could decide to terminate DACA which doesn’t require any legislative action. “He may simply cancel DACA and then you no longer have DACA status,” Reisz said.
USC students and members of the local community listen to Prof. Jean Reisz's advice about immigration rights.
The second scenario is that students could have no option to renew their DACA applications when they expire. It’s also possible, given that Trump hasn’t specifically said he will rescind DACA, that the program could continue and students can renew their DACA status and work permits.
Given the uncertainty of the program, however, both Frenzen and Reisz cautioned that students who apply to renew their DACA status at this time going forward should know they could lose their $495 application fee if DACA is rescinded.
For students who have not yet applied, Frenzen said, “My advice is clear: do not apply for DACA at this time. You could lose your application fee but you could also be providing information that could be used against you. Even though the application states that the information in the application will not be turned over to ICE, a Trump administration might do so nonetheless."
Reisz also cautioned DACA students who had permission to leave the country, to return before Jan. 20, 2017 because they may not be able to re-enter the country, and to avoid behavior that could draw attention from law enforcement, including minor things such as jaywalking. Many people detained in ICE detention centers were initially identified through contact with law enforcement.
"Know Your Rights"
Throughout the presentation, Frenzen and Reisz repeatedly reminded students who lack immigration status that, if arrested, they don’t have to provide officials with any information about their immigration status. They stressed that students carry a “know-your-rights” card that explains they will remain silent and wish to speak to an attorney.
“There’s a backlog of cases and ICE doesn’t have the capacity to detain everyone,” said Reisz. “If you are taken in and detained, and you don’t have a criminal record, you are likely to be released, then you can fight your case from the outside with more access to resources and there is a possibility that things might change before your case is over, whether in your personal circumstances or with immigration reform...
Frenzen added, “If you are threatened with arrest it may be tough to assert your rights but if you are facing deportation you must assert your right not to provide information that can be used against you. The system assumes most people will not assert their rights. We can put a bottleneck in the system if you don’t waive your right to a deportation hearing.”
Reisz recommended that students prepare for worst-case scenarios by creating a safety plan if arrested that includes reliable emergency contacts, a plan for childcare and for animal care and attorney contact information.
Among the concerns raised by students, was whether they could lose their access to financial aid under a Trump administration. Reisz and Frenzen said universities are free to raise and use private funds for financial aid and that Trump cannot stop California from providing state funds.
Clinic's Future Role
As for the Immigration Clinic’s role going forward, Frenzen said the scope of its work is mainly dependent on the availability of resources, but that they do plan to make information available to as many students, families and community groups as possible. In addition, USC Gould Dean Andrew Guzman will head a university-wide task force to create a strategy for USC to take a leading role on this issue.
“We are witnessing the same level of fear that we saw in some portions of the immigrant community after 9/11 with regards to Muslims, Pakistanis, and east Africans, and in 2001/2002 we did a lot of similar outreach,” Frenzen said. “But now this fear is broader.”
Frenzen said that in March 2006 half a million people marched in downtown to oppose a bill in Congress that would make it a federal crime to be present in the U.S. without papers. “Popular movements do make a difference,” he said. “Let’s remember that USC has political power in the city, the county and country, and we want to leverage that power.”